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EU cancels Macedonia crisis talks


AFP/File | The leader of Macedonia's biggest opposition party SDSM, Zoran Zaev (C) talks to the media in Skopje on January 16, 2016

AFP/File | The leader of Macedonia’s biggest opposition party SDSM, Zoran Zaev (C) talks to the media in Skopje on January 16, 2016

The European Union on Thursday cancelled mediation talks on resolving the political crisis in Macedonia, an EU spokeswoman said.

The EU had invited Macedonian political leaders to talks Friday on ending the crisis that has gripped the small Balkan country for the last two years.

“We regret that the leaders’ meeting planned in Vienna on April 22 could not take place,” Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told AFP.

“We have consistently said that the breakdown of the Przino Agreement would have serious consequences for the country,” she added, referring to an accord among political leaders reached under EU auspices last year.

The country has been politically gridlocked for two years but the crisis rose a notch on April 12 when President Gjorge Ivanov halted a probe into more than 50 public figures suspected of involvement in a wire-tapping scandal.

Macedonia’s opposition said Wednesday it would only join the EU talks if the government revoked the amnesty and postpone snap elections called by Ivanov for June 5.

The dropped probe triggered a wave of street protests against Ivanov, including thousands of people in several towns on Wednesday.

The opposition said it would boycott the June ballot on grounds that conditions for free and fair polls had not been met — a contention shared by the EU.

Macedonia is a candidate for EU membership since 2005, but is yet to open accession talks.

It has had close dealings with Brussels over the migration crisis, as it closed its borders to thousands of people trying to come via Greece.

“We would deeply regret any retrograde steps in Skopje that would move the country further away from its aspirations towards European Union accession,” Kocijancic said.

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